Dave Richardson Carry Me Along www.DaveRichardsonFolk.com
Dave Richardson is a relatively fresh voice on the North American folk scene, and with just a bit of justice and good fortune could also soon be a familiar voice.
From Vermont, Richardson possesses a strong voice and favours clean annunciation and guitar playing. His writing is similarly straight-forward, eschewing abstract word placement in favour of personable phrasing and descriptive language that captures mood, place, and character much like an effective short story author might. Carry Me Along, his third album (I believe), is most pleasing.
The album opens with a creative paean to an artifact discovered during a trip to the Smithsonian Institute; “Squid” may be the first folk song devoted to a giant cephalopod, and Richardson sings of the mysterious sea beastie with the honesty of an earnest lover. After this yearnsome tune, the aggressive independence of “Bachelor’s Hall”—the Appalachian variant owing more to Jean Ritchie than either Steeleye Span or Martin Simpson—reveals a darker view of courting: the truth seems to be—oceanic or interpersonal—relationships may not be worth the effort.
Similar introversion and introspection are found throughout this album. Featuring a dozen cuts, Carry Me Along is 2/3 original material with a handful of familiar melodies and traditional songs providing evidence of the influence the ballad tradition has had on this emerging and certainly talented artist. Bolstered by several different female vocalists—Liv Baxter, Emily Mure, and Mali Obomsawin, who also provides most of the bass—Richardson encompasses a variety of perspectives in his songs.
Richardson’s voice is quite perfect, neither artfully brooding or overly spry. Singing of companionable “Front Porch Time,” pastoral moments observing the “Rise and Play” of a fox, and astringent recrimination while “Driving So Far,” Richardson’s authenticity is resplendent with sincerity and texture: no one and no situation is one-dimensional. Child Ballad 78—”The Unquiet Grave”—perhaps provides the foundation for Richardson’s approach to folk music: a classic folk song provided a tad of personal inspiration without detracting from that which survived centuries.
Richardson rescues The McGarrigle’s barroom angel “Annie” (written by long-time collaborator Chaim Tannenbaum) from obscurity, late in the set pairing this ’74 out-take with the more idyllic, hopeful, and guitar-rich “Goodbye Baltimore.” Richardson also delivers a masterfully rendered interpretation of the devastating murder ballad “Polly’s Ghost,” known variously elsewhere as “Love and Murder,” “The Cruel Ship’s Carpenter,” “Polly’s Love,” and “The Ghost Song”: one gets the drift.
Modern folk, true folk—that is music rooted in the tradition and performed within a traditional configuration—is increasingly rarely encountered. All the more reason to celebrate the music of Dave Richardson and his little masterpiece, Carry Me Along. One for the year-end list, I’m predicting.